7 Trap Bar Deadlift Workouts for Strength (How-To Guide)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 27, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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The trap bar is one of the most functional pieces of equipment for building strength and hypertrophy in the upper and lower body.

Trap bar deadlift combines deadlift and squat movement patterns, offering less stress on the lower back than the mentioned lifts.

After a long career in fitness and numerous tests and research, I have found the best methods to include in your trap bar deadlift workout.

Read below for the best trap bar deadlift workout methods, proper technique, benefits, muscles worked, and more.

Quick Summary

  • The best trap bar deadlift workout comprises different methods, including the 5x5 method, the ladder set, EMOM, accessory lifts, push, pull, and rotation.
  • Trap bar deadlifts have numerous benefits, including better posture, a more balanced anterior and posterior chain, and less stress on the lower back while lifting.
  • To enhance endurance using trap bar workouts, aim for over 12 reps with minimal rest, 6–12 reps with up to 90 seconds of rest for muscle-building, and 1–5 reps with 2–5 minutes of rest for strength.
  • Based on years of training experience, I believe the trap bar deadlift is essential for anyone serious about building balanced muscle strength.

Trap Bar Deadlift Workout Methods

A person in the gym doing a trap bar deadlift

There are countless workout methods, but the following are the best at developing certain motor abilities, such as strength, endurance, and stability.

All workout methods can be implemented alone or in conjunction with others.

This will mainly depend on your personal goals and the motor abilities you want to develop.

Below, you may find the best trap bar deadlift workout methods for improving different motor abilities.

"The trap bar deadlift is a total-body pulling movement that can be utilized across various sports to develop leg strength, lower body power, and improve your general fitness. Both veteran athletes and newcomers to the gym alike can benefit from training the trap bar deadlift due to its wide applicability."

- Mike Dewar, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

5x5 Method

A person doing a trap bar deadlift

The 5x5 method, a staple in strength training used in Olympic lifting and other strength-focused sports, involves performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions each without pausing within a set.

This method requires using a weight based on your 1RM (1 repetition maximum) to determine your 5RM (5 repetition maximum).

A crucial aspect of the 5x5 method is allowing sufficient rest between sets, ideally 2-5 minutes, as research and my experience with clients have shown this to be optimal for strength gains.

Always begin with a thorough warm-up, gradually increasing body temperature and using lighter weights on the trap bar to prepare for the intensity of the 5x5 workout.

The Ladder Set

The ladder set, akin to a drop set, begins with the bar loaded at 90% of your 1RM, performing 3 reps.

Subsequently, reduce the weight to 85% of your 1RM for 5 reps, then continue decreasing in similar increments down to 75% for 9 reps.

After completing this sequence, reverse the process, working back up to 90% of your 1RM.

Rest periods are limited to the time spent adjusting the weights, and maintaining a continuous and challenging workout flow.

This method, which I've effectively used with clients, enhances both strength and endurance.

Emom

A person doing a trap bar deadlift

The first two methods were good for strength development, but this one is the best for endurance or strength endurance.

EMOM essentially completes the desired number of reps in the same interval. Let's say the whole workout lasts for 20 minutes.

You will perform 10 reps of 50% 1RM every minute, resting for the remainder.

An example workout would be to perform 10 reps of your 60% 1RM for one minute.

The whole workout duration would be 10 minutes, meaning there will be 10 sets included.

Accessorize

A trap bar workout can also be considered if you perform accessory exercises to support the development of the lift.

You may add accessory exercises at the end of each trap bar workout or include them in the workout itself.

Some of the exercises you may perform to boost the performance of your trap bar 1RM include:

  • Barbell rows
  • Neutral-grip lat pulldown
  • Prone dumbbell row
  • Chin-up

These exercises target similar muscle groups as the trap bar does.

Implementing them can increase the likelihood of your 1RM rising for the duration of a mesocycle.

Pull

A man doing pullups

Pull movement pattern is essential for developing strong and functional posterior chain muscles.

Pull exercises can be beneficial for implementing if you aim to support the trap bar workout.

Some pull exercises you may include are:

  • Barbell rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Single-arm dumbbell rows
  • One-arm cable rows
  • Lat machine pulldowns
  • Kaiser pulls

All these exercises will develop muscles that work during the trap bar workout.

Push

Push movement pattern is essential for developing healthy anterior chain muscles.

It is divided into vertical and horizontal push movement patterns.

Some push exercises you may include to supplement your trap bar workouts include:

  • Barbell bench press
  • One-arm dumbbell bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press
  • Dips
  • Barbell overhead press
  • Single-arm kettlebell overhead press
  • Landmine press

All these exercises should be implemented in a workout program to develop your body holistically and avoid building muscle imbalances.

Rotation

A person doing a rotation band workout

Rotation belongs to the core, and the primary muscles responsible for trunk rotation are the obliquus internus and externus.

Those two muscles flex and rotate the body.

Rotation strength and power are essential for developing a healthy trunk without muscle imbalances.

Some core rotation exercises you may include are:

  • Band rotation
  • Medicine ball throw
  • Cable chops
  • Cable lifts

However, when you don’t do trap bar workouts, you may include anti-rotation and anti-flexion exercises to improve the stability of your trunk.

Incorporating advanced training techniques like eccentric overload, isometric holds, or complex training with the trap bar can further enhance these abilities, especially for experienced lifters.

Trap Bar Deadlift Sets and Reps

Trap bar workouts target key goals: endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power.

For muscle endurance, exceed 12 reps across multiple sets with minimal rest.

Hypertrophy requires 6-12 reps for 3-4 sets, keeping rest under 90 seconds.

Strength training involves 1-5 reps for 4-5 sets with 2-5 minutes rest, allowing full recovery between sets.

Power training mirrors strength in structure but uses lighter weights for explosive movements.

In my coaching experience, tailoring rest periods and repetitions to these specific goals has proven effective for diverse client needs.

How to Do the Trap Bar Deadlift?

A person doing the trap bar deadlift

To do the trap bar deadlift, you must keep your back flat, brace your core, and your knees should follow the line of your toes.

The proper hex bar deadlift technique is similar to the conventional barbell deadlift technique, but there are slight differences.

The conventional barbell deadlift will place your body in a less favorable position for the posterior chain muscles.

Many prefer trap bars over a conventional deadlift with a barbell.

Here is how to perform the trap bar deadlift properly:

  1. Load the hex bar with the appropriate weight and enter it with both legs.
  2. Assume a standing position in the middle of the hex bar and take a neutral grip with your hands.
  3. Bend forward in your hips, keep your back flat, brace your core, and inhale.
  4. Start the exercise by pulling the trap bar upward and pushing through your legs simultaneously.
  5. Avoid the trap bar bent forward or backward since you may injure yourself due to the lack of balance.
  6. When you reach the fully extended position, slowly reverse the movement by bending at all three joints in your lower body.

Benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift

A woman with good back muscles

Hex bar deadlift has many benefits, but the most important is the lack of lumbar spine stress.

Many experience problems with their lower back, so they do a trap bar deadlift instead of a conventional deadlift.

Below you may find the most important benefits of trap bar deadlift workouts and why you should consider doing them instead of a regular barbell deadlift.

Entry-Level Deadlift Practice

A person doing deadlift practices

The trap bar is excellent for beginner lifters, young athletes, and older adults since it places less stress on the lower back than the regular barbell deadlift.

The center of the weight is located where the hex diagonals meet, basically in line with your spine.

This shifts the weight towards your anterior chain muscles, allowing you to target both agonist and antagonist muscles with a single exercise.

This is what is lacking with a straight bar deadlift.

Also, the range of motion is significantly better than the rest of the fitness equipment, as shown by the National Institutes of Health studies [1].

Mainly that’s the primary reason people modify exercises and perform:

  • Trap bar push up
  • Trap bar farmers carry
  • Trap bar floor press
  • Trap bar overhead press

All these exercises place your joints in a more favorable position, making them less prone to injury.

Increased Lower Body Strength

Trap bar deadlifts are the primary lift used to develop lower body strength for many team sports, including football and basketball.

According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, trap bars strengthen anterior and posterior muscles, meaning they will holistically develop your body [2].

Trap bars are essential to building strength for sprinting, jumping, and explosive movements in general.

You may easily increase the maximal strength of your limbs by overloading trap bar deadlifts to the point where your body needs to super compensate (read adapt).

Supplemental Weightlifting Training

A person doing weightlifting in the gym

Supplemental weightlifting training is also considered an accessory lift that aims to support the main lift's development.

You may use trap bar deadlifts to support the development of main lifts, such as traditional deadlifts and back squats.

You can supplement these mainly because they are of a similar movement and biomechanical structure, meaning a greater strength carryover will occur.

Depending on your training goals, you may supplement the main lifts on the same or separate workout sessions.

Decreased Lumbar Stress

The thing I like the most about trap bar deadlifts is the ability to perform heavy repetitions without too much stress on the lumbar spine.

Many fitness enthusiasts and even professional lifters suffer from low back pain due to lifting heavy reps of traditional barbell deadlifts or back squats.

If you want to experience similar effects or maintain current strength levels while you recover from the heavy back squatting and deadlifting, incorporate hex bar deadlifts instead.

This will take a big proportion of low back stress and place it on the anterior structure of the body.

Increased Leg and Glute Hypertrophy

Close up shot of good leg muscles

Trap bar deadlift induces strength and hypertrophy in your hip and leg muscles.

The primary muscles you may develop by incorporating trap bar deadlifts are erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

This means that trap bar deadlift is excellent for developing anterior and posterior chain strength.

Ability to Overload

The trap bar deadlift is much easier to overload than back squats or barbell deadlifts.

This is why it is so convenient for professional sports, as shown by American Football International [3].

The main reason is the favorable position of the spine.

The barbell back squat places your spine in a less advantageous position, making it more likely for you to get injured while lifting heavy weights.

It is the same for barbell deadlifts since the bar's position in front of your body places much more stress on your lumbar spine.

You must implement trap bar deadlifts to develop maximal strength and hypertrophy.

You may easily overload it and even support the previously mentioned lifts, increasing their 1RM.

"The trap-bar deadlift is one of the few back exercises that rivals the conventional barbell deadlift. Although they look different at first glance, they’re far more similar than most people realize."

- Michael Matthews, Certified Personal Trainer

Muscles Worked by the Trap Bar Deadlift

A person with good leg muscles

When talking about deadlifts, we can’t separate working and non-working muscles since deadlifts are the whole body's movement.

A comparative biomechanical analysis shows that trap bar deadlifts engage these muscle groups differently than conventional deadlifts, offering a unique stimulus for muscle growth and strength.

Below you may find the biggest muscle groups responsible for generating the most significant amount of force.

Glutes

Trap bar deadlifts will activate glute muscles since the movement requires a hip extension.

The primary function of the glutes is hip extension, but two smaller muscles also work in hip abduction and rotation.

The trap bar deadlift will successfully activate all three glute muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

Hamstrings

A woman with good hamstrings

Hamstrings are a special group of muscles located at the back of the upper leg and have two functions.

The first function is knee flexion, and the second is hip extension.

The long biceps femoris muscle works in both knee flexion and hip extension.

The other two muscles, including semitendinosus and semimembranosus, are primarily responsible for knee flexion.

However, the eccentric phase of the trap bar deadlift requires all three muscles to work synergistically.

Quadriceps

Like the hamstrings, the quadriceps also have two functions.

The primary function of quadriceps muscles is knee extension, and the secondary is hip flexion.

The four quadriceps muscles activated during the trap bar exercise are rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius.

However, the strongest quadriceps muscle, rectus femoris, is responsible for hope flexion and knee extension.

Erector Spinae

A woman with good back muscles

The erector spinae is the long muscle located along the whole spine.

The purpose of a trap bar deadlift, at least partially, is to place the body in a more favorable position, making your erector spinae muscle work less.

We prefer to take the stress of our lumbar spine because it is associated with a bigger chance of injury, and hurting your back is the worst.

This is because the spine connects the whole body; every piece of information in our peripheral system goes through it.

Hurting your spine prevents you from running, walking, or even standing normally.

If you feel pain during deadlifting or squatting, try incorporating trap bar deadlifts to lower the stress on the lower back.

Traps and Upper Back

Trapezius muscles and upper back muscles will primarily work to stabilize or to produce a partial range of motion at the end of the movement.

You can’t build huge traps and upper back solely from trap bar deadlifting, but certain stability and strength will be developed.

Who Should Do the Trap Bar Deadlift?

A person doing a trap bar deadlift

Strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, CrossFit and fitness athletes, and beginners should do the trap bar deadlift.

The workout is a fantastic strength-building accessory for different athletic fields, including beginners.

FAQs

Are Trap Bar Deadlifts Effective?

Yes, trap bar deadlifts are effective. Trap bar deadlifts are effective for building foundations for lower body strength.

Can You Build Muscle With Trap Bar Deadlift?

Yes, you can build muscle with a trap bar deadlift. Trap bar deadlifts will increase the strength of your upper body muscles and even develop stability in your upper body muscles.

What Is the Downside of Trap Bar Deadlift?

The downside of the trap bar deadlift is its ability to shift while in the air. This can sometimes cause injuries, but it is very rare.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969032/
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2011/07000/a_biomechanical_analysis_of_straight_and_hexagonal.31.aspx
  3. https://www.americanfootballinternational.com/study-best-deadlift-athletes/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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